Inspired by their travels to countries along both the Silk Road and China’s Belt and Road Initiative , a group of young Austrian academics are set to launch a new digital platform to encourage experts across Europe and Asia to connect and work together. The Europe Goes Silk Road team was in Hong Kong this week on the last leg of their 33,000km journey across Europe and Asia, which started in Vienna and will end in Beijing. The team met Lee George Lam, chairman of financial technology hub Cyberport to discuss their idea for an international exchange platform, described as “like Amazon, but for experts to find each other”, which they plan to call “Marcovision”, after the explorer Marco Polo. “We think Hong Kong is the perfect place to launch a network like this because of its central role in the Silk Road and the European and Asian mix within its identity,” says Florian Krendl, who handles public relations for Europe Goes Silk Road. He says they hope to raise funds for their idea through venture capitalists in the city. The idea stemmed from a road trip planned by global history student Sebastien Holler, 27, along the Silk Road. After meeting with co-founders Sebastien Maier, a 28-year-old civil engineering student, international business student Krendl, 27, and Maximilian Auer, 23, who studies business informatics, they decided to link their trip to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, known in Europe as the “New Silk Road”. The initiative intends to open up global trade by reviving ancient trading routes stretching across 61 countries from Asia to Europe and Africa through a series of infrastructure projects and cultural exchange. China’s official guidelines for the belt and road educational initiative, released in 2016, also include mutual recognition of scholarly degrees between nations and encourage collaboration between nations' universities. Nato allies single out China and its policies as a strategic ‘challenge’ While the impact is largely felt on Chinese campuses, with enrolment from belt and road partner nations increasing 12 per cent to 317,000 students, the team is also attempting to educate young Europeans on the belt and road project. “For a long time, the belt and road was rarely discussed in Europe, but we realised it would impact us, especially future generations,” Holler says. “So we decided we would have this adventure, but take other people along with us and encourage young Europeans to get out of their Eurocentric mindset.” They did this by chronicling the self-funded road trip in their green van on Instagram, where they now have more than 3,000 followers. “We try to find common ground and link people who may otherwise never exchange [ideas] before,” Krendl says. Cyberport’s Lam says: “I was immensely encouraged to see the ambition and passion shown by these young students to capitalise on the opportunities stemming from the Belt and Road Initiative.” He adds that another Cyberport member called Lynk had a similar idea and suggests that Holler’s team focus on building their European networks and forging a partnership with Lynk to connect the world’s experts from both the East and West.